These cranberry cream cheese hot cross buns make a delicious addition to your Easter brunch. Yogurt and cream cheese in the dough help to tenderize these buns so they are more cake-like than bread-like. I add orange zest as well to pair beautifully with the dried cranberries.
If you’re looking for a leaner Easter bread, consider my Armenian Easter bread.
For ease of browsing, you can also find all my sweet dough recipes here in one place.
Why Make This Recipe?
One of the lovely things about these cranberry hot cross buns is that the dough itself is rich and sweet.
I appreciate this in a hot cross bun, since usually, the only real sweetness is in the cross of frosting. And sometimes that is made with dough paste too, so not at all sweet.
How These Differ from the Inspiration Buns
I made a few changes to the recipe, most notably:
- subbing cream cheese for half of the butter called for. I find that shoving some cream cheese in a yeast dough imparts a rich, mellowness that is quite nice, especially if rich mellowness is your thing.
- leaving out cloves in favor of the brightness of orange zest
- using Greek yogurt rather than milk to add tenderness to the dough
Since this cream cheese dough has a relatively high sugar and fat content—both tenderizers that inhibit gluten formation—it is by no means a chewy bread.
How to Make Them
These hot cross buns are not really too hard to make.
Think of making the dough as a 3-step process:
- Proofing the yeast: For this step, you need warm water, Greek yogurt, the yeast, and a touch of maple syrup
- Making the dough: Here’s where you add all the dough ingredients except the fat. You’ll use sugar, maple syrup, egg, vanilla, orange zest, nutmeg, salt, and bread flour
- Adding the fat: This is where you add in softened butter and cream cheese, a bit at a time. Once the fat is incorporated, mix in the dried cranberries
PRO TIP: Since fat tenderizes gluten, waiting until the end to add the fat ensures you get a dough with good gluten-development.
I gave my guys two rises:
- one relatively short (about 45 minutes). This is where you cover the dough and allow it to rise right after you’ve made it
- about 1 1/2 hour rise after shaping the individual buns and right before baking
The resulting buns are almost cake-like in texture.
To Spread Making Them Over Two Days
For a more bread-like, brioche-type dough, give the dough an initial long rise and then wrap and refrigerate it overnight.
The next day, shape it into buns, and give them one more long rise before baking.
This schedule will result in a much more “feathery” crumb.
Either way, I highly recommend you make these Easter treats!
To Make Them Less Sweet
The buns are quite sweet, so if you want to cut down some on the sugar, feel free.
Use 2 Tablespoons each of sugar and maple syrup rather than the 1/4 cup of each called for.
I, however, am a Fan just the way they are.
For you guys who are more visual, here are some process photos for you
- The dough: note how smooth and shiny it is with a nice distribution of dried cranberries.
- Cut a cross shape into each bun. This gives you some nice browned bits on the top, and it also gives you a nice idea of where to pipe your glaze!
- The finished buns. Glaze them right when they cool to room temperature so the glaze doesn’t thin out and run off.
Hot Cross Buns Q & A
Absolutely. Consider using lemon zest rather than orange zest and using dried blueberries rather than cranberries. You can also use golden or “regular” raisins, bits of candied fruit, or even chocolate chips in place of the dried cranberries.
The buns are best eaten the day you bake them.
Yes! Like most yeast breads, cream cheese hot cross buns freeze very well. Put as many as will fit in a zip-top freezer bag and press out as much air as possible before freezing. You’ll probably need 2 gallon-sized bags. They will keep just fine for a good 2 months.
Take out as many buns from the freezer as you’d like. You can thaw them in the microwave (which will also heat them) or leave them out until thawed, about an hour at room temperature.
I prefer the buns warmed gently, either for a few seconds in the microwave or heated in a 350 oven all wrapped in foil until warm, about 10 minutes.
A Note About Measurements
Don't let its small price and small size fool you. The Escali Primo is an accurate and easy-to-use food scale that I have used for years. It's easy to store, easy to use, has a tare function, and easily switches between grams and ounces/pounds for accurate measurements.
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Cranberry Cream Cheese Hot Cross Buns
To Get the Yeast Going
- 4 oz Greek yogurt
- 4 oz hot water (140F)
- ½ oz dry yeast (2 packets)
- 2 teaspoons of maple syrup (don’t measure. Just a wee splash)
For the Dough
- ¼ cup 1.75 oz granulated sugar
- ¼ cup 2.75 oz real maple syrup (Grade B if you can find it)
- 1 whole egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- zest of 1 orange
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 18-20 oz bread flour (approximately. See note below)
- 2 oz unsalted butter softened and cut into small pieces
- 2 oz cream cheese softened and cut into small pieces
- 1 cup dried cranberries
For Eggwash and finishing
- 1 whole egg
- Demerara or Turbinado Sugar for sprinkling.
For the Glaze
- ½ oz butter melted
- 1 ½ Tablespoons orange juice
- pinch or two of fine sea salt
- enough powdered sugar to make a fairly stiff glaze that holds its shape about the consistency of buttercream.
- In your mixer bowl, mix together the yogurt and water until smooth. Mixture should be warm but not hot.
- Stir in the yeast and the two teaspoons of maple syrup.
- Let sit until small bubbles form on top, about ten-fifteen minutes
- Add the rest of the dough ingredients except for the dried fruit, butter and cream cheese. Start with the smaller amount of bread flour, and only add a little at a time if the dough needs it. (See Step 7)
- Attach the dough hook and mix on low speed until the dough comes together.
- Increase speed to medium and knead for five minutes.
- Check the dough. If it is very soft and sticky–more like a batter than a dough, add extra flour, an ounce at a time, until the dough pulls cleanly away from the sides of the mixer bowl. Some dough may still stick in the bottom of the bowl, and that’s just fine. You’re looking for a soft, slightly sticky dough that stretches nicely when you pull on a piece of it.
- Once the dough is lovely, with the mixer on low speed, add the butter and the cream cheese, just a bit at a time, until it is well incorporated. This should take about 5-7 minutes. The finished dough will be somewhat sticky but also shiny and smooth.
- Mix in the dried fruit so it is evenly dispersed throughout the dough.
- Scrape the dough into a nice ball in the bottom of the mixer bowl, spray thoroughly with pan spray, and let rise in a warm place for about forty five minutes. Dough will not double in size.
- Press any gases out of the dough, turn out onto a lightly oiled surface, and with lightly oiled hands and a bench scraper, divide the dough evenly into 12-15 pieces. I ended up with 13 pieces of dough, each weighing 3.3 oz. (Yes, I did math). Before dividing and shaping, you can also just wrap up the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to help develop the crumb a bit more.
- Roll each piece of dough into a ball and then round on the counter so the top of the dough becomes taut.
- Space evenly on a jelly roll pan covered with Silpat or parchment.
- Snip a cross shape in the tops of each bun using kitchen scissors (like I did) or just a sharp knife (which works fine too). Spray well with pan spray.
- Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2-2 hours, or until almost doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 400F
- Brush the buns thoroughly with egg wash and sprinkle on a liberal amount of demerara or turbinado sugar.
- Bake the buns in the center of the oven for about 12 minutes.
- Turn the oven temperature down to 375F and continue baking until the buns are a deep golden brown (and probably darker on the snipped points) and they reach an internal temperature of 195F, another 5-10 minutes, depending on your oven.
- Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool.
- After about ten minutes, pipe a cross onto each bun. I used a number 5 tip and went over my cross about four times. Like I said, I like my frosting. If you use a 10 or 12 tip, you will probably only need to do it once. Your call.
- Cool completely and then rewarm to serve. These are best eaten the same day, but do try to eat them all within three days. You can also freeze them and then reheat for a treat whenever you want.
For the Glaze
- Whisk together all ingredients until you have a smooth, shiny glaze that is thick enough to pipe. I never measure for glaze, honestly. Just go for it.
Did You Make Any Changes?
Hi, y’all! I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and hopefully also learned a thing or two.
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I do hope these cream cheese hot cross buns bring a bit of extra sweetness to your Easter table.
After Easter is over, feel free to make these into whatever shape you want and glaze the whole roll, too.
Take care, and thank you so much for spending some time here today.
Have a lovely day.